Cost of College Financial Aid

3 Ways To Fill Out The FAFSA Stress-Free and Maybe Even Fun

Fill out FAFSA
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Think about how stressful it can be to learn about the recruiting process overall, and about the college admissions process as you get closer to your senior year. Put that same learning curve, the same nerve to figure out a complex project with a definite due date, into a much smaller window — and you get the FAFSA.

The window to complete the Federal Application for Student Aid opens on January 1. You can really submit your FAFSA at any time, but some families feel time crunch because depending on your school, state, and the type of aid, awards go out first come, first served.

Don’t stress. Seriously. This paperwork isn’t going to hurt you. Here are the top ways to fill out the FAFSA without stressing out about it.

Don’t make mistakes filling out your FAFSA. Check out this post to avoid the most common mistakes.

Know what you’re going to provide the FAFSA

The FAFSA will ask your family to provide information in five categories:

  • about the student-athlete
  • about the student-athlete’s dependency on their parents (this is a legal question – does a parent or guardian list the student-athlete as a dependent on their tax returns?)
  • about the student-athlete’s parents or guardians
  • about the student-athlete’s financial background
  • about the schools that you want the FAFSA to send its findings directly to

There are a bunch of advanced tips about the FAFSA from Chegg that can help you understand some of the more complicated arrangements some families might pursue to maximize their student aid.

Did you know? For students who attend school for 4 years, the average incurred cost of loans is approximately $147,000.

Know what you’ll need to have at hand to fill out the FAFSA

In addition to the general bucket categories we listed above, you’re going to need to have a couple of things on hand that you probably don’t have memorized. Take some time to gather them together so you don’t feel like you’re searching through your lockbox and paperwork and losing your place in the FAFSA.

  • Social security numbers for the student-athlete and parents (if the student-athlete is filing as a dependent)
  • Driver’s license numbers
  • W2’s from the current and previous year
  • Tax returns from the previous year (since you probably haven’t done your 2015 taxes yet, the FAFSA lets you use the most recent one you have)
  • any additional benefits you might have: welfare, veteran’s, social security, investments, etc.
  • any additional financial figures that you might need to report: businesses, mortgages, etc.

This will all help the FAFSA compute your Expected Family Contribution. Please remember that no matter your family’s income, it behooves you to complete a FAFSA.

Did you know? Missing out on important financial aid information can mean paying as much as $90,000 extra.

Know that this is an unavoidable step in the recruiting process – and make it fun.

This might come from years trumpeting that my sport was other sports’ punishment, but I am a firm believer that there’s a silver lining in everything. Hill repeats? There’s going to be a downhill soon enough. Circuit workout? Get an awesome song playing and it’ll make the time fly by.

Do the same when you fill out the FAFSA. Put on some music that everyone enjoys. (I know, I have a dad, too — that might be easier said than done.) Give yourself a reward when you’ve finished it – maybe the family can go out for pizza or an ice cream.

The FAFSA may seem like a chore, but it doesn’t have to be; after all, it’s time your family gets to spend, together.


We have an incredible resource library of tips, how-tos and strategies for every part of your recruiting process. Want access? Get started with a recruiting profile.

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About the author
Andy McKernan

Andy McKernan is the content strategist at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. A content marketer with a background in creative writing, Andy brings several years of experience to NCSA.